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Physical and Digital Collections

ArchiveSearch: Glossary

Glossary of terms

Archive Box

The dimensions of a typical “archive box” will vary a little between repositories but is usually around 405 x 305 x 80mm.

Archives

Records produced by individuals, families, businesses or organisations during their existence. Archives come in a huge variety of formats- from parchment documents to digital files. They are historical documents dating from early centuries to the present day. Archives are retained by their creators or by archive repositories because of their ongoing interest to researchers.

Banker's box

The dimensions of a typical “banker's box” will vary a little between repositories but is usually around 290 x 330 x 390 mm.

Class

See Series below

Collections

The archival holdings or groups of archival materials which are described on ArchiveSearch.

Creator

The 'archival creator'; typically the person, family or organisation that is responsible for bringing the materials together. In some descriptions, this information is labelled ‘originator’.

Digital materials

Archives in digital format including digitised records which are available online through the Cambridge Digital Library and other sites.

File

An organised unit of documents grouped together either by the original creator or in the archival process because they relate to the same activity or transaction.

Folio

An individual leaf of paper or parchment, either loose as one of a series or forming part of a bound volume.

Fonds

Usually the top level of description, used to refer to a group of archives that share the same origin and have been created or accumulated by a particular person, family or corporate body (e.g. the papers of Adeline Hankey)

Item

The lowest intellectually indivisible archival unit, usually one document (e.g. one letter, which could be comprised of several pages).

Management group

A conceptual category to link archives of similar nature (e.g. Cambridge University archives)

Membrane

A sheet of parchment or vellum (animal skins used for writing or printing).

Originator

The 'archival creator'; typically the person, family or organisation that is responsible for bringing the materials together. In some descriptions, this information is labelled ‘creator’.

Repository

The organisation responsible for holding the archive material. A wide range of repositories based in Cambridge publish descriptions of their archives on ArchiveSearch including Cambridge University Libraries, Cambridge University faculties and museums, Cambridge Assessment and the majority of the colleges of the University. Some repositories are very large (like the Cambridge University Library and Churchill Archives Centre) and may be open every weekday. Others may be staffed by one person working part-time and may offer limited opening hours.

Series/Class

A sub-group of archives that are maintained as a unit because they were created by the same activity (e.g. committee minutes or personal correspondence). There may also be several lower levels, or sub-categories, such as sub-series or sub-sub series.

An archivist inspecting archive boxes

Archivist in storage area inspecting archive boxes

Credit: Alice the Camera

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